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President Obama's African Journey

Aired July 18, 2009 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm Anderson Cooper in Cape Coast, Ghana, and this is a special edition of "360," "President Obama's African Journey."

We're coming to you from Cape Coast Castle, one of several fortresses along the West African coast through which an estimated 10 million to 40 million enslaved Africans were shipped off to the new world -- many of those, of course, ending up in America.

The president came here as part of a presidential trip, his first presidential trip to sub-Saharan Africa, but it's also a trip that is deeply personal for President Obama. It's a journey that encompasses both the politics of today and the still painful memories of our past.


COOPER: As you -- as you walk around this castle, what goes through your mind?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, obviously, it's a powerful moment for not just myself but I think for Michelle and the girls. You know, I'm reminded of the same feeling I got when I went to Buchenwald with Elie Wiesel. You know, you almost feel as if the walls can speak and that, you know, you try to project yourself into these incredibly harrowing moments that people go through.

COOPER: How would you explain it to Sasha and Malia?

OBAMA: Well, you know, you try to explain that people were willing to degrade others because they appeared differently, and, you know, you tried to actually get them to engage in the imaginative act of what it would be like if they were snatched away from mom and dad and sent to someplace they had never seen before.

But, you know, part of what you also try to do with kids is to get them to imagine themselves on the other side as being the slave merchant. And, you know, that slave merchant might have loved their children and gone to that, you know, place of worship up right above the dungeon and get them to make sure that they're constantly asking themselves questions about whether they are treating people fairly and whether they are examining their own behavior and how it affects others.

COOPER: That's something you referenced actually during the campaign, your speech on race about your own wife.

OBAMA: Yes. COOPER: Mr. Obama, you said that she has the blood of slaves...

OBAMA: Right.

COOPER: ... and also slave owners.

OBAMA: Right.

COOPER: How did she respond to those statements?

OBAMA: You know, I haven't had the chance to process it yet. I think, you know, we were both listening and talking to the children. But I can't imagine that for her, for her mother who's with us, our children's godmother who's with us -- all of whom are direct descendants of slaves -- that seeing that portal doesn't send a powerful message of, you know, the kinds of emotions that must be evoked.

On the one hand, you know, it's through this door that the journey of the African-American experience begins, and you know, Michelle and her family, like me, draw incredible inspiration and strength from that African-American journey.


COOPER: Africa holds special significance for President Obama. Not just as an African-American but as a son. His father Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was born on the continent. His father began life herding goats in a small village in Kenya and went on to study in Hawaii and then Harvard University. President Obama has only met his Kenyan relatives a few times and barely knew his father, but his father's absence and his example have had a profound effect on his life.


COOPER (voice-over): Although his descendants were never enslaved, President Obama's visit to West Africa still has personal resonance.

OBAMA: After all, I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family's...


OBAMA: ... my family's own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story.

COOPER: His father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was born in Kenya in 1936.

OBAMA: My father grew up herding goats in a tiny village, an impossible distance away from the American universities where he would come to get an education.

COOPER: Abandoned by his dad when he was only two, the president hardly knew him. But through the years, their lives took on some interesting parallels, like his son, the older Obama received a graduate degree from Harvard. He, too, was drawn to a career in public service, rising through the ranks of the Kenyan government. He became a voice for change and reform in a divided nation.

OBAMA: In my father's life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career.

COOPER: The older Obama died in a car crash in 1982, but the president still has a vast extended family in western Kenya. This dusty, impoverished village called Kogelo, not far from the shores of Lake Victoria, is the Obama clan's ancestral home. Because of polygamy, an accepted practice here, dozens and dozens of people can claim to be a distant relative of the president.

After he was elected, dajur (ph) Obama, or people of Obama celebrated with a lavish feast.

AUMA OBAMA, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S HALF SISTER: We were all really, you know, jubilant. We were very, very happy and we're very excited, very -- I think the shock hasn't set in yet that, you know, we're the first family.

COOPER: The president's step grandmother, Sarah Onyango Obama is a clan matriarch. Her husband, the president's grandfather, was a village elder who worked as a cook for British missionaries in Kenya. She lives in this modest home which, due to her notoriety, is now under 24/7 police surveillance.

She speaks Luo, the local language, and hike her more famous grandson, has adopted education as one of her signature issues.

SARAH ONYANGO OBAMA, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S STEP GRANDMOTHER (through translator): I have been able to get donors to help children to pay the fees and keep them in schools.

COOPER: As president, President Obama has not visited Kenya, but he's been there three times, most recently in 2006. Some in Kenya interpreted his trip to Ghana as a snub, but the president says that his father and the rest of the Obamas remain central to his life and his agenda.

OBAMA: You know, when I think about these development issues, they're not abstractions to me. I can put a face and a name to what people are going through.

COOPER: A face and a name very much like his own.


COOPER: Still ahead, we trace the first lady's roots. Michelle Obama, graduate of Princeton and Harvard and descendent of slaves and slave owners. What we've learned about her history that can be traced back to these stores.

And the "door of no return." We walk with the president through a portal that doomed tens of thousands to a life of slavery. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What a profound sorrow must have been felt as people were hauled off into the great unknown.



COOPER: Welcome back to this "360" special, "President Obama's African Journey."

What must have been the most emotional part of his trip took place here at Cape Coast Castle. This is where enslaved Africans were held before being shipped to the "New World," being shipped to America. They were kidnapped from their homes, taken from their villages, ripped from their families.

And as soon as they were brought here, the men were separated from the women. The men were forced into this area, the male dungeon.

These rooms hold -- would hold as many as 1,000 Africans at one time. They're large, cavernous rooms. There's really no windows. There's small holes punched in the ceiling for ventilation but very small. You get a little bit of light but that's the only light that would be in here.

There's five different rooms, each one would hold 200 slaves. There's no toilets, of course. There's a gutter that runs down the middle of the floor right here. This would be used for urine and for feces. But archaeologists have found that the entire floors were covered with feces about a foot thick that they excavated a few years ago.

Many of the men who were held in these cells never got out. They died in these rooms of malnutrition, disease, brutality. Every day, apparently, a check would be done on who was still living, who had died. Bodies would be removed, placed into this room -- those were about to die would be placed here, as well. This is the final resting place of untold number of Africans.

Of course, many of those who were enslaved tried to fight back, tried to escape, even once they got here the Cape Coast Castle. The punishment for doing that though was death. And this is the place that they were killed. It's the punishment cell and it's one of the most horrible places you will ever visit. Once an enslaved African was forced through this door, it was a death sentence.

As many as 20 or 30 enslaved Africans would be forced to live in this room until they died. As you can see, there's no light in here except for the light from our camera, there's no windows. These walls are incredibly thick, stone covered with plaster.

And what's so eerie about this place is you can still see, look, these are what look like scratch marks, people literally trying to claw their way out. There's even some spots on the floor where markings where people were doing anything they could to dig themselves out. You see a lot of these circular markings. No one is really sure exactly what that is. But they think it's just people who were here just trying to claw out, trying to pass the time.

There are even some spots where you can see teeth marks on the floor. There's no bathroom in here. Once you were in this room, it was a death sentence.

Women who were kidnapped and enslaved were brought here, separated into two different dungeons. Each held about 150 people. So, you can imagine 150 women crammed into this room, they're stuck here for anywhere from two weeks to several months, nowhere to go, not sure what's going to happen to them, no place to go to the bathroom, fed just twice a day. It's an eerie place to be, I can tell you that.

If a woman was detected to be pregnant, she would maybe be allowed to leave. But that was pretty much the only way out. And it's just a short walk from the female dungeons to the "door of no return."

Women and men who were held captive here were ultimately led down this corridor through this door, the "door of no return" they call it. On the other side of the door were slave ships waiting to take them to a life of bondage in the New World and, in some cases, in America. Many, of course, would never ever been make it that far. They died on the difficult journey over, their bodies simply tossed overboard.

But once they went through this door, they would never set foot in Africa again.

The transatlantic slave trade went on for hundreds of years. It was a vast and brutal triangular trading system in which human beings were bought and sold like commodities.


COOPER (voice-over): The middle passage turned human beings into cargo on ships powered by sail but fueled by money.

DR. ADELE LOGAN ALEXANDER, PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV.: Very, very big, big business. For the most part, slave trading was controlled by the -- by the royal families, and by companies that the royal families chartered. So, the charters would be given to boat captains by these large trading companies.

COOPER: The ships arrived from the outer passage full of cheap finished goods, textiles and guns from Europe, freight to buy human cargo. Then from Cape Coast to Elmina and other slave dungeons, slave factories some were called, the ships sailed west. The middle passage, two months at sea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "We were all but under deck. The closeness of the place and the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself almost," Olaudah Equatano, 1789.

COOPER: And many did. Suffocating, shackled, they died of dysentery, smallpox, dehydration. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The living man was sometimes dragged up and his companion was a dead body. Sometimes of the three attached to the same chain, one was dying and another dead. The tumult they had heard was the frenzy of those suffocating wretches in the last stage of fury and desperation, struggling to extricate themselves," The Reverend Robert Walsh, 1829.

COOPER: Some who could took their own lives, and when possible, crews prevented suicide and outright starvation, not out of compassion but because it hurt the bottom line. There were even competing methods for loading ships, loose pack or tight pack to maximize profit.

ALEXANDER: We're not talking about caring about people's well-being, but the loose packers were the ones who argued that if you kept the slaves in better condition, that you would in the end get a higher return on your -- on your investment.

COOPER: Either way, upwards of one-in-10 didn't make it, many more dying in the early years when the passage took longer.

Still, from slavery's inception to abolition, anywhere from 12 million to 40 million Africans were forced to make the middle passage. Millions to South American cane fields and copper mines; millions more to the Caribbean; as many as half a million men, women and children ended up in America growing cotton and tobacco, raw materials for the return or homeward passage in a horrific triangular trade that changed the face of America, tore it apart, left a rich human legacy of culture and thought and noble deeds but never in its time did that cruel triangle ever carry anyone home.


COOPER: Still ahead on this special edition of "360" -- the family history of a historic first lady. We'll trace Michelle Obama's roots back to the darkest chapter in U.S. history.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The rice plantations would have been back here.



COOPER: Welcome back to "President Obama's African Journey."

The president has said he picked Ghana because he wanted to highlight its success as a democratic nation and send a message to the rest of Africa. I sat down with the president for a "360" interview.


COOPER: You have a pretty tough message to African leaders today, essentially saying, you know, stop making excuses.

OBAMA: Right.

COOPER: How do you think that's being received?

OBAMA: I think...

COOPER: And is that the problem?

OBAMA: I think, by the people, it's being received very well. I can't speak for the leaders. I know that...

COOPER: But that's the problem for the lack of development in Africa, you think, leaders making excuses?

OBAMA: I think it is a major problem. I think it's a major problem. If you look at the history of the last several decades, I think what's fair to say is that Africa has not made as much progress because ruling elites have not thought about reinvesting what resources these countries have into the development of ordinary people and giving them the tools and the skills and the opportunities for them to succeed and thrive. Instead, what you've had is a tendency to -- for ruling elites to -- to extract wealth from these societies and not plow it back in.

Now, Africa's a vast continent, and so you can't make all these generalizations. There's no doubt that the historical disadvantages that are testified to by this place where we're having an interview have had a profound effect.

But, you know, the point that I made during the speech, that at the time that Kenya won its independence, it had a higher per capita income than South Korea. You look at the extraordinary gap in per capita income that exists now, what that tells me is that there were a lot of opportunities lost, and we can't afford another 40 or 50 years in which Africa loses those opportunities.


COOPER: An increasing number of African-Americans are coming to Ghana to begin the journey of retracing their roots. And many may not know exactly where on the continent of Africa their ancestors originated from, but they come here to Cape Coast Castle and others like it along the Ghanaian coast because so many enslaved Africans were sent through here. Now, everyone who comes to visit has a history and a story to tell -- and Michelle Obama is no different. We asked Joe Johns to retrace her roots.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Humid, wet, mosquito- infested, overgrown. It was a sprawling South Carolina rice plantation in the 1800s. This is where Michelle Obama's family believes her great-great-grandfather Jim Robinson spent his life and where he toiled in the relentless Carolina sun.

It's called Friendfield plantation. But these fields would hardly have been a friend to Michelle Obama's great-great-grandfather or to the other 350 slaves here. It was a hard life. Farming rice was back-breaking. Alligators, snakes and swamp fever everywhere. Sunup to sundown, six days a week.

Historian Toni Carrier...

TONI CARRIER, HISTORIAN, LOWCOUNTRY AFRICANA: It was a terrible labor routine. Slavery itself was oppressive and it's left a very deep wound in our society because it's so unpleasant.

JOHNS: Slaves here likely spoke their own dialect and grew their own food. Typically, most had roots in the rice-growing countries of West Africa.

Today, this is what's left. It was called Slave Street. Their cabins whitewashed, bare bones, no plumbing; one or two families in a cabin.

(on-camera): Shall we go in?

(voice-over): Ed Carter manages the plantation property. He's been here 20 years.

(on camera): So, this is it, huh.

ED CARTER, MANAGES PLANTATION PROPERTY: Yes, this is the inside of the cabin. It would have had a fireplace instead of a stove there at one time. That was covered in, but the walls have been redone.

JOHNS: There's not a lot of change in here. So the rice plantations would have been back here.

CARTER: Right, when you come through the backdoor, these trees out here would probably not have been here and it goes right on back to the -- to the water line which is where the rice field starts at.

JOHNS (voice-over): The original masters' mansion burned down and was rebuilt in the 1930s. Old census records show Michelle Obama's great- great-grandfather was born about 1850. His parents were born in South Carolina, too.

Jim Robinson married a woman named Louiser and had several children. Neither he nor his wife could read or write, in fact, they would be the last generation of the Robinson family born into slavery, and the last illiterate generation.

(on camera): Michelle Obama's great-great-grandfather was born a slave but died a free man. He still came back to the plantation though and is buried here in all likelihood with his parents and many other relatives. You won't find his grave though. Most of the graves out here are unmarked.

CARTER: About seven or eight marked tombstones and the rest of them are just, you know, impressions in the ground where you can see they're buried at. And most of the time, when people back then couldn't afford a cement stone, they would do it out of wood of cypress. JOHNS: That's what we know about Michelle Obama's ties to the Robinson family of Georgetown, South Carolina. But there's a lot we don't know. We don't know how many generations of slaves there were or what route they took to this hemisphere in the first place.

(voice-over): Research group Lowcountry Africana, traced the first lady's family history in the U.S. but could not make the link back to Africa.

CARRIER: That would take a lot of time to do, and certainly, not a shred of documentary evidence right now which would even suggest to us what the African origins would be.

JOHNS: In Georgetown, Margretta Knox attended this church with Michelle's grandparents, Jim robin son's grandson and his wife. But the family ties to the old plantations kind of got lost.

MARGRETTA KNOW, GEORGETOWN RESIDENT: I've been around it all of your life so you just don't even reminded -- it doesn't cross your mind. You just living like for today I guess.

JOHNS: And in that way, it probably never crossed Jim Robinson's mind that one day, his great-great-granddaughter, too, would be living in a White House so very different from his own.

Joe Johns, CNN, Georgetown, South Carolina.


COOPER: Millions of Americans share something in common with Michelle Obama, of course. They too can trace their roots back to this continent.

And an increasing number of African-Americans who visit are so moved by their journey, they decide to stay, returning home they say. We'll show you what their lives are like.

Plus, if you think slavery is a horror from the past, think again. The slave trade is alive and well, and the numbers are shocking. Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates -- coming up.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

"President Barack Obama's first African Journey" continues in a moment. But first, I want to give you some headlines here.

Breaking news tonight: Police are investigating a multiple murder on the Tennessee-Alabama border and they have a suspect in custody. Police say five bodies were found in two homes in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Some of the victims are related. The sixth victim was found across the border in Huntsville, Alabama. Police identify the suspect as Jacob Lee Shafer and they say murder charges are pending. No victim IDs, no cause of death. Two light rails trains collide in San Francisco. There are multiple injuries but none of those injuries appears to be life-threatening. Initial reports say a one-car train traveling at a low speed collided with a stationary one-car train. The crash is under investigation right now.

I'm Don Lemon at the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'll see you back here at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

An "AC 360" special, "President Obama's First African Journey" continues after this break.


COOPER: President Obama and his family spent two days here in Ghana after visiting Russia and Italy. Here's more of my interview.


COOPER (on camera): This is the "door of no return" through which --

OBAMA: Through which --

COOPER: -- hundreds of thousands of slaves were sent.

OBAMA: -- were sent.

And on the other end, obviously, there's a sense of what a -- what a profound sorrow must have been felt as people were hauled off into the great unknown.

COOPER: Do you think what's happened here still has resonance in America, that the slave experience still is something that should be talked about and should be remembered and should be present in everyday life?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that the experience of slavery is like the experience of the holocaust. I think it's one of those things you don't forget about.

I think it's important that the way we think about it and the way it's taught is not one in which there's simply a victim and a victimizer, and that's the end of the story.

I think the way it has to be thought about, the reason it's relevant is because whether it's what's happening in Darfur or what's happening in the Congo or what's happening in too many places around the world, you know, the capacity for cruelty still exists, the capacity for discrimination still exists, the capacity to think about people who are different not just on the basis of race but on the basis of religion or the basis of sexual orientation or gender still exists.

And so, you know, trying to use these kinds of extraordinary moments to widen the lens and make sure that we're all reflecting on how we're treating each other, I think, is something that I want my kids to think about and I want every child to think about. COOPER: They say this is the door of return for African-Americans who are revisiting Ghana. And I talked to one African-American lady yesterday, who said that coming here is such a powerful experience that she actually decided to move here.

You've met with many African-Americans who decided to move here. They say that there's a sense of coming home. Do you understand that feeling?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I will tell you the first time that I traveled to Africa, I think that there is a special sense for African-Americans of somehow connecting up with a part of yourself that you might not have even been aware was there.

So now obviously for me, it was different because I was directly meeting relatives and learning about a father I didn't know.

But I do think there's a sense for a lot of African-Americans that it's a -- it's a profound, life-changing experience.

The interesting thing, though, is that I've met a lot of white Americans who come to Africa and say, it was a life-changing experience for them too.

COOPER: This is the home where everyone comes from.

OBAMA: Yes, exactly. And there's a powerful sense of tapping into something very elemental about that.

COOPER: You sort of always come back.

OBAMA: Yes, do you.

But I do think that you know, the spirit, particularly of a place like Ghana where you know, for all the difficulties they're still going through, the people are just incredibly open and friendly and welcoming. I think that makes a difference for a lot of people who, you know, maybe African-Americans who feel somehow that they never fully belong.

And the only thing I would say, though, is there's a flipside to this, which is I know an awful lot of African-American who's come to Africa are profoundly moved, but also realize how American they are when they're here, and, you know, recognize that they could never live here.

And that's part of the African-American experience. You are in some ways, you know, connected to this distant land. But, on the other hand, you're about as American as it gets.

In some ways, African-Americans are more fundamentally rooted in the American experience because they don't have a recent immigrant experience to draw on. It's that unique African-American culture that has existed in North America for hundreds of years, long before we actually founded the nation.

COOPER (voice-over): Just before our time with the president ended, I asked him to answer a quick lightning round of questions.

COOPER (on camera): What's the strangest experience you had had on this trip?

OBAMA: Well, the fact that my trip director has had to have stitches. He got a big gash getting on the helicopter. Of course, he's 6'8". Michelle's assistant twisted her ankle. So we're having to give combat pay for these trips.

COOPER: What's the favorite moment your girls have had on the trip?

OBAMA: Other than watching "SpongeBob" in their hotel?

Actually, you know what, my favorite experience was watching my girls interact with the Pope, you know, because, you know, when you start seeing your kids growing up, and they're being very, you know, courteous and, you know, thoughtful but unflappable in a setting like that, it makes you realize that they're not going to be around that long.

COOPER: And you're getting grayer. Are you worried about it?

OBAMA: As long as, as long as I've got you as a role model, I'm OK.

COOPER: Yes. We got you a gift. I wanted to give it to you at the end so people we're saying we were sucking up. I don't know how many presidents get this, but this is an official African shirt with your --

OBAMA: This is nice.

COOPER: These are very popular right now.

OBAMA: You should have seen, there was a version with Michelle --

COOPER: Is that right?

OBAMA: -- And me. And --

COOPER: We got one for Mrs. Obama, as well. I'm not sure she wants to wear your picture around.

OBAMA: Yes, I think that we have this as a keepsake. But you probably won't see me wearing this in the Oval Office.

COOPER: Thank you for your time, appreciate it.

OBAMA: Thank you so much.


COOPER: For centuries, enslaved Africans were forced through this door, became known as the "Door of no Return." Their hands at this point were still bound. They would be loaded into small canoes and taken out to larger slave ships waiting offshore. Once on board, their feet would be shackled, and they would make the long journey to the new world, and many ending up in America never to return.

Increasingly, though, African-Americans, descendants of slaves, are returning here to Ghana to reconnect with their past and retrace their roots.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This wall tributes our African leaders.

COOPER: When Imacus (ph) Acofu (ph)first visited Ghana in 1987, she had no idea the trip would change her life forever.

COOPER (on camera): First trip you hadn't been here probably more than a couple days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never, that's right.

COOPER: You decided this is it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew it, to have that sense of really being a part of something, as opposed to being a colored person in America, going through the things that we went through in America. This was different. This gave me a total sense of belonging.

COOPER: Imacus (ph) and her husband left their home in New York and settled near Cape Coast, Ghana. They built a lodge and tourist service called "One Africa."

It's estimated as many as 5,000 African-Americans now call Ghana their permanent home.

COOPER (on camera): For African-Americans who move to Ghana, the transition can often be difficult. Many will tell you they feel a sense of home here, but often Ghanaians view them as foreigners.

Abruni (ph) is a term that people hear on the street call me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure, they use it to describe white people. But they also --

COOPER: They also use that sometimes to describe you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. And when I question that --

COOPER: Did that hurt you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know what it meant. And then when I did know what it meant, and they said that it meant "white man" and "stranger." And I said how do you call me a white man? And they said because you sound like a white man.

COOPER: Do you warn folks who just come here for the first time, African-Americans who have come here and maybe hope to be embraced in a way, do you warn them that, you know what, you might get called "white man"?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure, and I tell people, don't take offense.

COOPER: Tourism has become big business in Ghana. Some 10,000 African-Americans now come here every year to reconnect with their heritage. Many make a pilgrimage to Cape Coast castle, one of several fortresses with dungeons where millions of enslaved Africans were held before being forcefully sent to the new world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, what this must have been like.

COOPER: Akiba (ph) Clay has been coming here since 1995. She works at Princeton University and brings groups of students here to learn about the history of slavery.

For her, the most difficult part of the trip is standing by the "Door of no Return" through which so many enslaved Africans passed before being forced on to slave ships.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All that the slaves went through, the rape, the bloodshed, the deaths, the babies that were born and unborn. And then I think about their final moments, leaving the shores of Ghana, some who made it, and some who didn't. That's what brings about the emotional aspect.

COOPER: It was visiting this dungeon where enslaved women were once held that made Imacus (ph) Acofu (ph)decide to move to Ghana. More than 150 women would be crammed into this room, sometimes for months before being shipped off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

COOPER: Every time Imacus (ph) visits, she prays for the souls of those who died here and those who passed through. It's a painful pilgrimage, but one that also gives her strength.

COOPER (on camera): And the pain is what? What is the feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever had a knot in your stomach, feel like something is just gripping you in here? That's what it feels like.

COOPER: And what about the experience of being in that room made you want to live here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. It was something that just came over me that when I -- after had I gone through that experience, and after I had felt my ancestors, I felt -- I felt as though people were -- I felt as though people were putting their arms around me. They were comforting me.

They made me know that this was my place, and that I had a responsibility in being here, and that I belonged here. That's what it says, "You belong here."

COOPER: I'm glad you feel that you found a home. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

COOPER: It's a good feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got that right. You got that right.


COOPER: Still ahead, the horror of modern day slavery. We'll take to you one country where children still live in bondage. How does this happen? Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates.


COOPER: Welcome back to this special edition of "360, President Obama's African Journey."

It's hard to imagine that slavery could still exist in the modern world, but it does. Exact numbers aren't known, but it's estimated that millions of people around the globe right now live in some form of bondage.

We asked Dr. Sanjay Gupta to investigate, and right now he's across the Atlantic in Haiti.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: At a minimum, hundreds of thousands of African slaves were imported here to Haiti in the 18th century. And it was those slaves who fought for their independence and succeeded, making Haiti the first free black republic anywhere in the world.

But after fighting so hard more than 200 years ago, slavery still thrives here in Haiti in the form of these child laborers called "restaveks."

For 15-year-old Dina, there is nothing but work, nothing. In the slums of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, she spends every day, all day, cleaning, cooking, shopping, carrying buckets of water up an impossibly steep mountain for her owner. That's right, her owner.

In Haiti Dina is what's called a "restavek," or child laborer. Others simply call her a slave.

GUPTA (on camera): You know, it's remarkable to me that it's about 11:00 in the morning. She's already washed one house, done all the work. And now she's taking this full five gallons of water just basically to start her real job with her owner. It's amazing.

It's over 100 degrees outside. It's hard work. I'm a grown man. This is hard for me to do.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dina makes this water trip at least seven times a day. In return for all of this, she's paid nothing, only scraps of food and a mat on the floor that serves as her bed. If she's too slow or doesn't do her work, she's either beaten with an electrical cord or made to kneel on this sharp cheese grater.

GUPTA: Do you get angry?

GUPTA (voice-over): "I get angry," she says, "but what can I say? I can't say anything."

JEAN-ROBERT CADET, FOUNDER, RESTAVEK FOUNDATION: If you're a restavek, you are at the mercy of everybody.

GUPTA: Jean-Robert Cadet knows all too well. He's a former restavek himself. In 2007, he founded the Restavek Foundation, which fights to give Restaveks a voice.

Restavek is Creole for "stay with." It comes from the Haitian tradition of poor parents in the countryside giving their children to families in urban areas where they might have a better life.

But that is far from reality for a majority of restaveks. They are often forced into a life of domestic servitude and abuse for other poor families.

GUPTA (on camera): "Slaves" is a very specific term, and it conjures up an awful, awful part of our history. Are these children slaves?

CADET: As far as I'm concerned, they are. What else would you name it if it's not slavery?

GUPTA (voice-over): According to the United Nations, it is a modern form of slavery, and there are some 300,000 restavek children in Haiti.

Up on the mountain, Dina's owner, or aunt, as they're often referred to, says Dina is not a slave, but says she, in fact, wants to do all the chores herself.

GUPTA (on camera): Have you ever beaten her?

GUPTA (voice-over): "Yes," she says. "When I send her to fetch the water and she stays too long, when she comes back, I whip her. When she goes to a friend of hers, I beat her. I beat her so she will not do that again."

GUPTA (on camera): So you whip her and you beat her?

GUPTA (voice-over): "Yes," she says.

GUPTA (on camera): You make her kneel on a cheese grater?

GUPTA (voice-over): "When I put her on the cheese grater, I don't beat her," she says.

GUPTA (on camera): Do you show her love?

GUPTA (voice-over): "I speak with her. That's how I show her affection," she says.

The child labor laws are vague in Haiti. In fact, Dina's owner or aunt is doing nothing illegal. We wanted to ask the minister of social affairs how this is possible, but she declined our request for an interview.

Cadet believes awareness and education are key to changing the plight of restaveks.

CADET: We try to free the child. And the way we try to do that is through education.

GUPTA: The Restavek Foundation pays for the tuition, uniform, and supplies for nearly 400 restaveks in their program.

But it all starts with building awareness with the owners. Cadet refers to it as changing the hearts and minds, everything from persuading them to allow them to attend school for a couple hours a day to not beating them, and, yes, showing them affection.

GUPTA (on camera): One of the things that really struck me, Jean- Robert, was every child that you saw, you went up and you put your arms around them and you gave them a hug.

CADET: Yes. I have to. It's just like I'm looking at myself in that child. And I just wish somebody could have walked by and touched me, pat me on the head, and say "You're a nice kid. You shouldn't be doing that." And I want to give that to those kids.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dina was 14 years old before anyone hugged her. It came from Cadet.

GUPTA (on camera): If someone could give you a wish, what would you wish for?

GUPTA (voice-over): "For someone to remove me and continue to pay for my school so I can become somebody in life," she says.

Until then, Dina will wake up tomorrow and walk this mountain another seven times, waiting, hoping for something to change.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


COOPER: We'll be right back with a look at some of the most poignant moments from President Obama's African journey.


COOPER: Often the images you see of Africa are of war and heartache. And those stories certainly deserve to be told.

But it's nice to be able to bring you a story from Ghana, a country that is vibrant, a place that's had successful elections, a country brimming with potential and promise. We've had a photographer, Brent Sturden (ph), from Getty Images whose been traveling with us. We wanted to show you some of his photographs as well as some photographs of other photographers of the president's journey and our own.


COOPER: There's no war here, no coups no, current example of inhumanity. In Ghana, the story is progress and possibilities, so many people eager -- eager for business, eager to elevate their lives and their families. The marketplace is teeming with energy.

People hoped Obama's visit would somehow bring prosperity. Everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of him. When they learned I'd interviewed the president, they wanted to touch my hand, touch a hand that had touched Obama's.

Good things are happening here, and the president came to highlight that. But of course, many still struggle.

Ghana is rich, though. There's oil here, and development. It's rich, too, in history and music. The culture is alive and strong.

We got stuck in a traffic jam caused by a celebration of local chiefs. They were carried aloft, waving to a cheering crowd, an unexpected moment I feel lucky to have witnessed.

I'll never forget Cape Coast castle. The president came here with his family. We walked the castle grounds with him, an extraordinary moment, standing with the first African-American president on the spot where the African experience in America began.

At first glance, the whitewashed walls make it look almost pretty. But step into the dungeons, and the horror of what happened here comes alive.

Stonewalls, no windows, no bathrooms, no escape -- millions of enslaved Africans were packed into these dungeons and others over hundreds of years, shackled, kept barely alive, waiting for the ships that would take them to America and the new world.

Those who fought back were put into this punishment cell. They were left here to die, their teeth marks on the floor. The desperate, the dying tried to scratch their way out.

Everyone who comes here says the same thing -- you can almost still smell the fear, the sweat, the death and decay. The pain is palpable still. It's history, you tell yourself, but the wounds still linger, and we must never forget.


COOPER: Thanks for joining us on "President Obama's African Journey."

I'm Anderson Cooper in Cape Coast, Ghana.